Michiel Muller, co-founder Picnic
Successful serial entrepreneur Michiel Muller has founded several companies that have one thing in common: they achieve completely upset the existing market by offering a service in a new way. From Tango's unmanned petrol stations to the latest innovation: Picnic. Supermarket without physical stores, only online, electric vans and a fully accessible app.
Your grocery shopping app is fully accessible. That is exceptional. How did that come about?
Picnic has been going on for almost five years now. We build everything ourselves, because then you can actually make anything you want. We have a very talented software team, with people from all over the world. They are passionate about their profession and when we had a first version of the app ready, one of our app developers said that we should actually make the app accessible to people who are visually impaired or blind. Because for them, shopping is extra complicated. We thought that was a good idea so he started researching and experimenting and started looking for people who knew more about it. And it all turned out to be quite possible and much less complicated than you might think. That's how it started and we still work that way. Our new versions of the app will also remain accessible. It's just something extra that we can do and our people enjoy working on it.”
For many companies, the first reaction to the question 'shouldn't we do something with accessibility?' not an immediate 'yes'. Why was that Picnic the case?
'I can imagine that companies that immediately think of hiring an external party for something like this are afraid of very high costs. Of course we have our own people who could handle this, which is an advantage. Our developer who suggested it had read a blog and said it was possible. But I do think that if you do it, it has to be done right. Our developers like a challenge so he started puzzling and started.
It also fits very well with Picnic's DNA. We do a lot of sustainability, for example with our electric cars and we are committed to food waste. Also on a technology level. We are actually always looking at what we can do to make it smarter, better, more sustainable or easier. This fits with that. We have a very young team, the average age is 27. The team is international, many different nationalities work there. And the 'making something, meaning something for the community' is something that always plays a role with them.'
Do you get a lot of reactions that the app is accessible?
'Well, we certainly hear from people who let us know that they really enjoy working and that they are happy to be able to do their shopping independently. I think it's special because, because you really have to get used to it. But that is a matter of practice and the people who use it come across these kinds of solutions more often, of course.'
What would be needed to better put accessibility and inclusion in the Dutch business community on the map?
"Yes, that's a good question. I think it just doesn't come to mind often enough for many entrepreneurs. Especially if you don't know anyone with a visual impairment or another disability, you don't think about it so quickly.
Regulations can help, of course, but you also want to ensure that when people start working with them, they also build something that is useful to you. So part of it is making it mandatory, although I always find that very difficult, but it starts with awareness. Because how often do you run into someone who is visually impaired or blind and do you start a conversation to understand the challenges?'